Is this plagiarism or homage?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by batwister, Jul 18, 2012.

  1. batwister

    batwister Member

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    I felt I needed to share some work by an individual on Flickr which I think raises some difficult questions about homage/plagiarism of style. This is concerning the photographer Todd Hido:

    Car/house - http://www.flickr.com/photos/15077500@N00/7244221756/in/photostream ------ http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-VMRH8j_fbuw/UAcA1Fl_sKI/AAAAAAAAANc/xme5PrdJ0m4/s1600/hido-car.jpg
    House - http://www.flickr.com/photos/15077500@N00/6833582649/in/photostream ------ http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-EDCfsHWuKF0/UAcCpgRExyI/AAAAAAAAANk/Gtbs1VXVDG0/s1600/hido-house.jpg
    Portrait - http://www.flickr.com/photos/15077500@N00/6671308355/in/photostream ------ http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-2LFAPtNlDOg/UAcCuRqz7_I/AAAAAAAAAN0/NBkpWl3LJ-U/s1600/hido-portrait.jpg
    Car window landscape - http://www.flickr.com/photos/15077500@N00/6917571866/in/photostream ------ http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-Y6lCCVexFPQ/UAcCsCqawqI/AAAAAAAAANs/-V8huj-4Xc8/s1600/hido-landscape.jpg

    If you look at the stream in general you'll start to get a better idea.
    It's important to note the rain on the window in the landscape, which is the aesthetic that marks this series of images by the photographer.
    There is another portrait where the subject is blatantly wearing a wig - something Hido has incorporated into many of his own images.

    Firstly, as someone commenting on one of the images speculated, a small part of me wonders whether this is Todd Hido himself and these are in fact outtakes. Perhaps he is using Flickr to test the water with his less successful images. Then again, they certainly aren't as well seen or technically accomplished, but the locations are very similar - if not the same places. There is also the possibility that this person could be studying under the photographer, but I'd still have to question why they are uploading without a tag or reference to Hido.

    I'd hope this isn't read as an attack on the person, but this kind of unabashed imitation leaves me perplexed. Is the uploader aware? Is it coincidence? Some kind of college project on forgery? Or is it the originator playing around? Personally I think the last linked image equals Hido's work in quality, which makes me wonder if the uploader is selling/exhibiting. Not to turn into an art detective, but I've recently seen what look like fake Hido prints on eBay.

    We often see legions of photographers imitating Michael Kenna's style, but I feel with this work being conceptually led and personal to the original artist, it's a somewhat different matter.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 18, 2012
  2. Shawn Dougherty

    Shawn Dougherty Subscriber

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    I've seen many photographers / painters come closer than that to another artist's work... Didn't Picasso say something along the lines of 'good artists copy, great artists steal'?
     
  3. batwister

    batwister Member

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    He was a prankster.

    It's more the psychological aspect of seeking out these locations, waiting for the right type of light and atmospheric conditions - using the same camera and film. A painter simply picks up a brush.
     
  4. Michael R 1974

    Michael R 1974 Subscriber

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    Ha. This Hido guy seems to have ripped off my style, except in colour. So there you go.
     
  5. batwister

    batwister Member

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    Michael... We all have egos, but come on. :tongue:

    If it was only the houses or the portraits, fair enough, but he's imitated every series the photographer has done to date, with the same approach. The same type of houses with those single illuminated windows - in the same type of neighbourhood, the same vernacular landscapes through rain drops on the car window, the portraits of 'girl next door' type models in empty rooms lit by the window. It scares me that he clearly hires these models to fulfill his fantasy.
     
  6. semi-ambivalent

    semi-ambivalent Subscriber

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    I try not to look at any work of others'. Paranoid that I will assimilate styles, unconciously or otherwise. My own, true style, although quite possibly trash, is at least true and therefore of more value to me, if not to the collector.

    s-a
     
  7. Greg Davis

    Greg Davis Subscriber

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    I say it is neither, it is laziness. I have seen more copies and ripoffs of Ansel Adams than I care to count. He is undoubtedly copying Hido's style, but they are his own images. This is not plagairism since he is not photographing a Hido print and putting his own name on it. If Hido feels he is being plagiarized, then he can pursue this himself.
     
  8. CGW

    CGW Restricted Access

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  9. tony lockerbie

    tony lockerbie Subscriber

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    I will have to look up Hido, don't know him at all....don't get out much! I did like that last shot of the track through the foggy/wet window.
     
  10. CGW

    CGW Restricted Access

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    Could be the old "herd of independent minds" thing, could be "studies" by the artist that led to a final version, might be simple emulation of a style. I'm not seeing anything especially profound in the images--or an ethical/property issue--sorry!
     
  11. batwister

    batwister Member

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    I probably should have mentioned Hido in the title.
     
  12. CGW

    CGW Restricted Access

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    I know Hido's work. Always thought his drowsy nudes owed a lot stylistically to Larry Sultan, especially his "Pictures from Home" series.
     
  13. batwister

    batwister Member

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    I think they do yeah - Sultan was his mentor. But other than a concentration on suburbia, they are coming from different places - even on a superficial level. It's like comparing Adams to Weston.
    But having a vaguely similar style is a little different to copying concepts, series themes, and seeking out exactly the same subject matter. This person is intentionally getting inside Hido's head - aesthetics and concepts - as a means to produce work that has some depth. What I find troubling is that he's clearly trying to kid naive Flickr viewers into believing this is original work. If this work was displayed before the public, in print, I believe he'd run into problems. But... isn't it on public display on Flickr? More people might view the work there than any short run exhibition. This is what I'm trying to get at, I believe those images are walking an intellectual property tightrope.
     
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  15. CGW

    CGW Restricted Access

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    Why does this matter so much, anyway? If this guy's riffing on Hido, it won't be first time it's been done. Has Hido retained you to file suit?

    The link between Sultan and Hido is a bit more intimate--and obvious--than you're arguing, sorry.
     
  16. batwister

    batwister Member

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    It only matters in so much as intellectual property is something that can potentially effect all of us putting our work out there. It's a bigger problem for establishing artists of course, and it's a little scary to think that when concepts mark so much photography today, those who are developing ideas have to be extra brave when presenting their work online.

    We're not talking about a landscape photographer simply stealing another photographer's 'views' here, but something that can only be imitated with a clever psychological appropriation of a concept and personal vision - and the good fortune of seemingly living in the same place Hido made his work. I find it a little scary that anyone can have the capacity to do this. We all imitate to some extent of course, but we move past it after a few images. To maintain that imitation for three series worth of a photographers work, using the same tools and materials and hiring models that suit 'the look', I find, quite worrying.

    No need to apologise for your reading of the Sultan/Hido connection.
     
  17. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm not sure it's plagiarism, but it sure looks like the Flikr photographer is copying Hido's work pretty closely. As someone mentioned the Picasso quote about good artists are copying and great artists are stealing (and I think this quote may not be from Picasso but I digress); when a great artist steals he or she steals from far more than one source. If you only copy (or steal) one artist or photographer, your work will be simply be reductive, and that's what the Flikr work is, but steal from ten or twelve sources... well, now that's another story! Maybe this Flikr photographer will find some other influences and move on with a more unique voice or the work will just look like Hido wannabe's.
     
  18. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    And not only does this person live in the same area and seemingly shoot the same areas as Hido he used the same exact fog!
     
  19. Dali

    Dali Subscriber

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    Honestly, I don't see where the problem is. Is is forbidden to take a picture where and the way Hido did? As long as the Flikr photographer does not present his work as Hido's... I only hope he will find his own way by himself.
     
  20. CGW

    CGW Restricted Access

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    No apology offered, just an admonition to see Hido's work relative to Sultan's and this dude's relative to Hido's. Who really cares about the nature or extent of the copying if it's costing Hido no sleep--which I suspect it isn't. The copycat's work isn't so much inspired by Hido as burdened by it. Don't make his obsessive hell yours. Walk on.
     
  21. batwister

    batwister Member

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    Thanks very much for your admonition, but I'm fairly comfortable with how I see these three photographers in relation to each other. This reminds me of those 'admonitions' on APUG that craft is everything and slapped wrists if you don't accept it - "you young whippersnappers!". Sounds more like totalitarianism. I guess I'm just too plain stubborn to accept your opinion verbatim - sorry!

    Now this advice I'll gladly accept - thanks.
     
  22. Steve Roberts

    Steve Roberts Member

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    I don't think there's much doubt that the photographer is trying to imitate Hido (who I don't know) but setting aside the fact that I think it's a shame when anyone feels that they must base their work on someone else's, I don't think he's done a bad job and I would go so far as to say that I prefer the imitator's shot of the car and house to Hido's.

    Steve
     
  23. batwister

    batwister Member

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    Agreed (but I think the landscape equals/betters Hido) and it's that obvious intent beyond simple recreation - he's really trying! A lack of imagination can be a dangerous thing.
     
  24. dasBlute

    dasBlute Subscriber

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    I think you're reading too much into it, looking at his stream he's got a fairly wide variety of styles, from holga to hassy. With a wide-ranging eye as shown in his stream, there will always be overlap with other's work. I agree there is a grey area - just think of how many 'long exposure of a dock in low light ala Kenna' you've seen [and here's my riff on Atget]... but this guy [tryred62] is - in my opinion - a lot more individual than that.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 19, 2012
  25. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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    I think your making a very big stretch suggesting this guy is ripping off Hido. My comment on the 4 images given as examples are that Hido is doing nothing original and neither is the other guy.
     
  26. Brian C. Miller

    Brian C. Miller Member

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    Why bother obsessing with what someone on Flickr posts? Maybe the Flickr fellow looked at Hido's photographs, and did imitate the ones he liked. Big deal. Maybe all of them he thought up independently. Big deal. Is every photograph of a rose derivative or plagarized from the first photograph of a rose?

    Less agony, more photography.